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Singapore penguins given cataract surgery in likely world’s first

The doctors removed the cataracts and implanted custom lenses for the King penguins in ‘likely a first of its kind for the species’ (Screengrab: Facebook/ Mandai Wildlife Reserve)
The doctors removed the cataracts and implanted custom lenses for the King penguins in ‘likely a first of its kind for the species’ (Screengrab: Facebook/ Mandai Wildlife Reserve)

Authorities at Singapore zoo have successfully fitted three elderly king penguins with custom eye lenses during a first-such ever surgery to remove cataracts in the eyes of aquatic birds, officials said.

The three elderly penguins are among a total six who were operated for cataract surgery two months ago and have since fully recovered, the officials said.

“After being diagnosed with cataracts last year, six of our senior penguins underwent successful surgery to help them regain their sight. We are so glad to see they have since made a full recovery,” the vets with the Mandai wildlife group said.

“Not only does this procedure help to enhance their overall well-being and quality of life, but it would also aid in the penguins’ transition to their new home in #BirdParadise when they move,” the wildlife group said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

These include King penguins aged 20 and old and three Humboldt penguins aged between seven and 13 and residing at Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park.

The wildlife group said that during the “delicate procedures”, the doctors removed the cataracts and implanted custom lenses for the King penguins in “likely a first of its kind for the species”.

“Post surgery, the patients recuperated in a separate den where keepers gave eye drops twice a day,” the wildlife group said.

It added that zookeepers carried out follow up checks two months later and found that the penguins had recovered well, to ultimately discharge them to rejoin the colony.

A medical condition affecting both people and animals, cataracts cause cloudy areas in the eye and impair sight.

Veterinarian Ellen Rasidi told CNN that the doctors noticed the cloudiness in their (eyes) and as a result, “they were having difficulty seeing things in front of them”.

A veterinary ophthalmologist Gladys Boo who was also a part of the surgery said that the king penguins received custom-made intraocular lens implants, which she considered “a milestone in veterinary medicine”.